Researchers at the University of Illinois, or more precisely the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, have discovered a process that can turn used plastic shopping bags into a compatible drop-in diesel fuel and a number of petroleum products. The recycling process also works to recover most of the initial manufacturing inputs that go into producing plastic shopping bags. Given that each year an estimated 100 billion shopping bags are thrown away in the US alone, this is great news indeed.
The city of Johannesburg, South Africa, recently got an innovative student housing structure made of recycled shipping containers and disused grain silos. Mill Junction student accommodation, as the complex is called was designed and built by the South African property developer Citiq. All told, the building process took a year to complete.
The complex is located in a prime location of the city, and is comprised of 11 stories, which contain 375 affordable student apartments. First, windows were cut into the sides of the silos, the inside of which was converted into student apartments. To create additional living space, recycled shipping containers were then attached to the sides of the grain silos and stacked four floors up atop them. Apart from the private units, the complex also contains several common areas, such as study rooms, a library, communal kitchens, and a gym. The builders also placed astro turf on the roof and covered it to create an outdoor common area with amazing views of the city, since the entire structure is roughly 40 meters high.
Growing food in the colder months of the year is a challenge, and growers in colder climates that want to extend the crop-growing season are always looking for a better way to do so. Greenhouses are a great option, but they cost a lot of money to construct and heat during the colder months. The American sustainable agriculture non-profit organization Benson Institute has come up with a set of easy to follow instructions on how to build a much cheaper alternative, the so-called walipini, which means “place of warmth” in Aymara Indian. The walipini is basically an underground, pit greenhouse in which it possible to grow vegetables all year, even in the coldest regions of the world.
The Santa Monica-based award-winning green design studio Minarc partnered up with Habitat for Humanity, and a local non-profit firm Restore Neighborhoods LA to design and build affordable, net-zero energy prefabricated homes in the low-income areas of South Los Angeles. Together they built 3 homes, which were all built on vacant lots in the poorest neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The houses all feature Minarc’s innovative, interlocking panel system, which is called mnmMOD. The homes are also equipped with roof top mounted solar panels.
Lulu, a single mom from Southern California, recently went back to school, which prevented her from working full time to pay a market rent. Due to this she was forced to move out of her conventional home, so instead she decided to build for herself and her small daughter a home from a shipping container. She built the home herself with no prior construction experience.
Lulu was given the shipping container for free, and it took her about a month to cut out the windows and doors using a saw. She then installed the needed insulation to which she added bubble wrap to prevent condensation buildup. For the floor and ceiling, she opted for Styrofoam insulation. She also performed some basic plumbing to get running water in the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen is equipped with a propane camp stove and a portable, propane-powered on-demand water heater.